Questions and Answers on Victim’s Rights in the Criminal Proceedings

Here is some information from the Florida Parole Commission:

What you need to know about hearings:

AM I A VICTIM?

A victim, according to s. 960.03(13)), Florida Statutes, is a person who suffers personal injury or death as a direct result of a crime or a personal loss; or a person less than 16 years of age who was present at the scene of a crime, saw or heard the crime, and suffered a psychiatric or psychological injury because of the crime, but who was not physically injured. All victim information is confidential by Florida Statute.

WHAT TYPE OF PROGRAMS CAN AN INMATE BE RELEASED UNDER?

Parole - All offenders whose crimes were committed prior to October 1,1983 are eligible for parole consideration, unless they were sentenced after that date and they elected to be sentenced under Sentencing Guidelines. In addition, all inmates who committed a capital felony murder prior to October 1, 1994 and all inmates who committed a capital sexual battery prior to October 1, 1995 are also eligible.

Conditional Release - All offenders whose crimes were committed on or after October 1, 1988, which crime fell under the violent offense categories of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, and who have served at least one prior felony commitment at a state or federal correctional institution will be released under this program. This is NOT an early release program. When the offender is released at the expiration of their sentence, as reduced by gain time, the Commission will impose terms and conditions of supervision until the end of the court-imposed sentence. As a result, the more violent offenders will be released to a mandatory period of supervision in the community.

Conditional Medical Release - An offender is eligible to be considered for this program when they have been determined by the Department of Corrections, because of an existing medical or physical condition, to be either permanently incapacitated or terminally ill and their life expectancy is less than six months.

ARE HEARINGS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC?

Yes. Section 286.011, Florida Statutes, provides that all meetings of any board or commission or any state agency in the State of Florida, at which acts are to be taken, are declared to be public meetings, open to the public.

DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO ATTEND A HEARING?

Yes. A victim has the right to attend all hearings and speak at parole and conditional medical hearings. Families of victims are also entitled to attend and speak at the hearing. Written comments may be submitted for consideration prior to a conditional release hearing. Victims should be aware that anything they say at a public hearing becomes public record.

WHO ELSE CAN ATTEND A HEARING?

Other persons permitted to attend may include the inmate's family and friends, attorneys, members of the media (cameras and recording equipment are allowed), or any other interested party.

CAN SOMEONE ACCOMPANY ME TO THE HEARING?

Yes. Anyone may attend parole hearings in the State of Florida.

HOW DO I KNOW WHEN A HEARING WILL BE HELD?

If you are a victim of a crime in Florida, you have the right to provide input to the Commission during the deliberation process, whether parole is being considered or terms and conditions for conditional release are being established. The Commission has a toll free number you may call to find out the status of a case. That number is 1-800-435-8286 and is listed in red on this web page. If you already know the status of the inmate’s case and wish to appear and speak, you may call (850) 488-1293 to request permission or simply submit a request in writing to:

The Florida Parole Commission
2601 Blair Stone Road
Building C, 3rd Floor
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2450

Attn: Work Processing

The Commission will provide written notification of the date, time, and location of the hearing.

Any written correspondence submitted by a victim is considered confidential according to Florida's public record laws, s. 945.10, Florida Statutes. All correspondence from victims is stamped confidential and becomes a permanent part of the inmate record.

WHEN WILL I BE PERMITTED TO SPEAK AT A HEARING?

The Commission publishes an agenda listing all cases scheduled to be heard on that particular day. You will be assisted through the process by the Commission’s Victims Coordinator. When the offender’s case is called, those speaking in favor of the inmate speak first, with the Victim, or those opposed, providing testimony at the end. The Commission does not allow rebuttal of any testimony.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF AN INMATE IS BEING RELEASED?

The Department of Corrections notifies all victims, that can be located, of an inmate’s release from incarceration.

WILL THE OFFENDER SEE ME AT THE HEARING?

No. The offender WILL NOT be present at the hearing. In Florida, a representative of the Commission interviews the inmate at the institution. The results of the interview and the hearing examiner’s recommendation are forwarded to central office in Tallahassee. At the public hearing, the Commissioners will have already independently reviewed the inmate’s file and the written materials and will then hear from any scheduled speakers.

WHERE WILL THE HEARING BE HELD?

In most cases, the hearing will be held in Tallahassee at the Commission’s headquarters. The Legislature provides some funding that allows the Commission to occasionally hold hearings in other major cities around the state.

WHAT IF I DO NOT WANT TO ATTEND A HEARING?

The decision to be present and/or speak at a parole hearing is entirely up to the individual. If you choose not to attend, you may submit a written statement, which will be considered by the voting Commissioners. You may also request an appointment with a member of the Commission or you may request only to be notified of the Commission’s decision.

CAN I ATTEND CLEMENCY HEARINGS?

Yes. As a victim, you also have the right to participate in the clemency process. For more information, contact the Executive Clemency Coordinator at (850) 488-2952. Should you wish to contact a member of the Clemency Board, their names are listed on the Clemency page of this web site.